I haven’t been updating this blog lately for a variety of reasons. The first (and most important) is that it’s summer, and in the summer it’s important not to spend all your time trying to land on the front page of digg. In the summer; it’s important to relax.
The other big reason is that, with the time I do spend in front of my Macbook, I’d rather be reading insightful posts than trying to craft my own. Reading, I’d say, is about 95% of the reason I use the internet.
Yes, Viriginia, I do enjoy reading on the internet
Which brings me to what I really want to talk about. It’s something I’ve been seeing again and again from so-called ‘business leaders’ (who like to talk about ‘integrated verticals’ which, I think, breaks the record for two words who, together, mean absolutely nothing at all) who fancy themselves exports on the web. They claim that people do not read on the internet.
Not to single anybody out, since I came across this quote as the result of a random search, but take this article from masternewmedia.org titled Online Reading Habits: How much content do web audiences read?:
Though hard to believe for most, a recent research study shows that “on average, users will have time to read 28% of the words if they devote all of their time to reading. More realistically, users will read about 20% of the text on the average page.”
I don’t quibble with the result of the research, but what I do quibble with is the conclusion that’s often reached as a result. It’s the Pro Blogger mantra, calling ‘wordiness’ a sign, and recommending lite content, full of easy-to-digest lists and giant pictures. In essence, it’s calling for an almost-illiterate web.
I’m not an elitist. I like lists. I like pictures. I skim articles when I come across them. But I also, and I am going to bold this, like to read on the internet. I like reading long, interesting articles. I like encountering so-called “walls of text” when I know it’s subject matter written by a talented writer. Never have I encountered a post by Gruber or 37signals and thought “Damn, I wish this content was presented in the form of a Top-10 list.
I like to read on the internet. I like to read paragraphs on the internet. Maybe I’m not a large audience, or even a common audience, but I am an audience, and I hope that the talented writers out there, drowning in a sea of advice calling for short, easily-digestible, content-free writing on the internet, are aware that readers like me exist.
Postscript: What makes a good blog?
Good blog posts are made of paragraphs. Blog posts are written, not defecated. They show some level of craft, thinking, and continuity beyond the word count mandated by the Owner of Your Plantation. If a blog has fixed limits on post minimums and maximums? It’s not a blog: it’s a website that hires writers. Which is fine. But, it’s not really a blog.
As we move through new generations, blogging is going to become a very common tactic for businesses. It works better than the traditional brochure-style website, because a blog creates a strong connection with the reader. It’s more like having a conversation than viewing a commercial. It gives your business personality. And personality on a corporate level is more important than ever. (Look at Apple versus Dell, as an example.)
But if we let blogs descend into a swamp of nothing but links, lists and funny pictures, we’re never going to get anywhere meaningful. To be honest, I’m a little concerned that maybe we’ve already passed that point of no return. But, hell, all I can really think to do that might help is say, proudly and over and over again, that I like to read on the internet.